Two Heineken On My Notebook

Friday

I left the Dulles Airport for Israel at 7:25 pm on 01/12/2002. In the plane I sat next to a Swiss national, a kind of friendly person going to Switzerland for two weeks vacation. He was very concerned about the world economy in relation to the U.S. economy. We talked about that. He told me that he works in the manufacturing sector and I tried to relate with him and understand his concern. It was a good discussion.

The flight was very pleasant. The flight personnel were very professional, food and drink abundant. Each seat had a TV with your own remote control to operate. I watched two movies. To be honest I was sleeping half time. But I was always up for food and drink.

At my arrival, while leaving the plane, I was asked by security about the purpose of my visit. I am visiting my brother who lives in Ashkelon and he may be waiting for me at the airport, I told the security lady. She asked if this is my first visit. I told her it is my second. She welcomed me and let me go through. Now I am legally in Israel.

There were many people waiting the arrivals. I glanced around to see if my brother was waiting for me. Couldn’t see him. It had been fourteen years and within this time, I said, he may have changed and me too. I thought we might not recognize each other. Whatever, I must be able to distinguish my brother among the many in the terminal.

I have two luggages: one on my shoulder and the other one I am pulling it. My brother was not there. I joined the crowd. I became one of them but they looking at the people coming and me looking for someone among them. I saw them reuniting with their loved ones, hugging each other. Me, kind of lost.

I saw one girl, maybe two or so and a man, maybe about thirty to thirty-five (very difficult to suggest an Ethiopian’s age). I wanted to talk to them. The girl, kind of fussy, so I said to myself, leave her alone. The guy came towards me but not knowing what to ask. He hesitated. I said good afternoon (Tenayesitelegn). Then he said Tenayesitelegn. I introduced myself and he introduced himself. He asked me what am I doing. I told him that I am waiting for my brother. He advised me to wait for him since Friday is the worst time of the week in terms of traffic to come to the airport. I responded positively. On the mean time he asked so many questions like where do I live, how life is in America and so on. I responded to his inquiries and we exchanged our addresses.

After waiting for one and a half hours, I said to myself why not I take a taxi and go to Old Jaffa Hostel where I made a reservation upon the advice of my brother. Then I realized I have actually already suggested to him that it may be easy for me to take a cab and he doesn’t have to come to the airport. I thought that may be a reason for him not to show up. I said let me take a cab.

The taxi driver was a young man, I think in his late twenties. I asked him to take me to Old Jaffa Hostel, 13 Amiat St. in Tel Aviv. He started driving and on the way said he doesn’t know how to get there. I advised him to get directions from the radio dispatcher. He did. Then he asked if I have been to Israel. Although I have been once in 1984, I told him I know Israel very well. I was trying my best to alert him not to take a longer ride to charge me more. I think he realized that I am not totally stranger.         After about 25 minutes, in the middle of the city, he pointed his finger and said that is Old Jaffa Hostel. I said O.K. He said I have to drop you here. I said why? drop me at the hostel. He said from here I can’t drive through therefore you have to walk. I looked around and the place seems abandoned. It’s Friday evening and everything is closed. The people walking are kind of very low class (poor). I paid the taxi fare, got my luggages, and walked to the Hostel, about 300 feet.

It is an old building, the first floor has many doors but all of them closed. There is no visible sign for the hostel. I couldn’t figure it out. I went around the building, but there was no door that was open. I said to myself, did the taxi driver drop me in a danger zone? I was scared to be honest. There were some people I could ask, but I was not sure that is the right thing to do. I had no choice but ask.

An older man with a difficulty walking was next to me. I asked him where is Old Jaffa Hostel? He said this building, pointing with his finger to the building. I said but where is the entrance? He replied the green door, it is open, just push it. I thanked him and pushed the green metal door. It opened. There was no one. I said is there anyone? No response. I walked upstairs to the 2nd floor. There was a guy. I said good evening and got inside. Yes, it is the reception. This guy said, Are you Solomon’s brother? I said yes. Another man with a strange leather jacket, a dense mustache, and a kind of bald head came and hugged me. It was Solomon. We hugged each other for a while. He was very excited, as much as I was.

A room with two beds, bath, and kitchenette was reserved for us. Solomon gave me a tour of the place. I didn’t care about the place, I was happy to meet my brother. We talked. I was emotional to remember and write what we talked about.

For dinner I suggested we go to the best restaurant in the neighborhood. Solomon agreed to it. We took a cab and drove far from the neighborhood. Next to the U.S. Embassy is, according to Solomon, the best restaurant. Yes, it was nice. The menu had good choices. Solomon ordered salmon fish and I ordered the same thing. The waitress brought us our order. Just salmon and rice. Compared to DC, a very small amount. I want my brother to eat well, but for my eyes, the food was small. We ate. I told Solomon to order more, he said it is enough. I had a good lunch but this one was too small. I had beer and Solomon had tea. That was all we got.

We took a cab back to the Hostel. On the door at my room there was a note: Dear Solomon’s brother, welcome. This night and tomorrow we will not have hot water. Sorry.

I was actually waiting for a hot bath. Not tonight. Not tomorrow. Well, no choice. I looked at the bed. If I had a choice, I wouldn’t sleep on it. But no choice. I did sleep and slept the whole night without interruption.

Yes, before I slept, Solomon and I talked and talked. Our talk was about the family, about our childhood, and about everything.

 

Saturday

The cloth I bought for Solomon and the things I brought for myself were all for the summer season. Now I am told it is winter in Israel and it is cold. Yes, it is COLD. I have no cloth good enough for the season. What a misunderstanding. Everybody in DC was telling me you’re going to the hot weather. Yes, I have my swimming suit, but the weather is not good for that.

Yes, today is Saturday and everything is closed. In the morning we went out for breakfast. There was a bakery with many people standing on line. We got croissants and went next door to a cafe. We got coffee but I didn’t like mine and ordered tea. After that we went back to the hostel. We spent the whole day and night without going out. Everything was closed.

Solomon brought me kind of pizza with sesame on it. I pretended I ate it but actually I dumped it in the garbage box. I didn’t have lunch and dinner. Well, I had my tea and blood pressure medication.

No shower yet, but I hope tomorrow will be a different day. Everything, I am told, will be open, and I will be moving out of here to a hotel with working showers and better facilities and closer restaurants.

 

Sunday

Woke-up about 8:30 am. I talked to Solomon about our daily plan. Yes, the first thing: get breakfast. We went to the city and had a good breakfast (coffee, croissant, two orange juice).

Then we went to a dentist for Solomon. I have no idea about the dentists but Solomon seems to know about them. In a building on the third floor a very beautiful young receptionist welcomed us. There was a television running in Russian language. Not difficult to know these are Russian Jews.

Solomon has lost two teeth on the right and one on the left. He complains that he can’t chew properly and wants some kind of implantation of teeth. I think it is more of psychology and self esteem. No matter, I am here to help a brother in his need. He got x-rayed and they told him it will cost him about 15,000 Shekel (about $3,000). Too much for an Israeli teeth. We thanked them and left.

We headed to an internet cafe, I think kind of disappointed. No choice but navigate the internet. As usual checked the news about Ethiopia, but there was nothing.

Monday

Today we had a plan to drive to Ashkelon where Solomon resides. I wanted to see the place where he lives and after that see a dentist he claims to know. It is a forty minutes drive to Ashkelon. Not bad. The weather was much better than the previous days, warm and pleasant.

In Ashkelon first we headed to the dentist, who refused to see us without making an appointment. No choice but go for breakfast. We had breakfast in a cafe place crowded by French Jews.

Finally we headed to the place, Solomon calls it an apartment, where he lives. Yes, a building. We approached the building and Solomon started moving faster, not through the main entrance of the building but toward the window at the back of the building. I was kind of lost and completely confused. I asked where is the entrance to your apartment? He said follow me and I did. I get in through the window he said. Now I am completely lost. The window is open, actually no window. I said how did you get in through the window? He replied put your foot on the wall and jump in. I contemplated to do that or not. I decided to follow his instruction. Inside is full of garbage. I said where is your bed? Where do you sleep? He said on that, there, pointing to the garbage. I said what are you talking? He said this is my place. Sometimes I sleep on the street. Hard to believe but my brother is mentally ill and homeless.

I got angry to say the least. I looked at him. He’s well dressed, actually has a tie and sun glass on. He said I brought you here so you know why I didn’t invite you to stay with me. I have no words to respond.

I want to cry. Yes, I did cry inside me.

 

Back in Tel Aviv we had lunch. I was angry still but Solomon doesn’t seem to have a problem. We visited the Ethiopian Embassy and at about 4pm we drove to another dentist. He recommended cleaning, taking out bad teeth, and putting in artificial teeth. That’s what Solomon wants. A total cost of 1,500 Shekel (about $300+). For me, I thought, why does a homeless man worry about his teeth. But I am helpless, so what do I do, just pay it and forget it. He is scheduled for Wednesday, January 18th.

Our day concluded with dinner at a restaurant. For me to sleep well, I bought two large bottles of Heineken beer from a grocery store and brought it to my hotel. I am writing my diary while drinking my beer.